from Bassett, Brash & Hide
Have you noticed the ways in which New Zealand’s mainspring seems gradually to be unwinding with Jacinda Ardern’s government? A collection of small things add up to an unfolding collapse of civil society as we have known it. Let’s list some of them in no particular order:
*It’s now very difficult to get a tradesman for small domestic emergencies, and trade-training seems to be at a low ebb. Almost no foreign tradies are making it across the border as back up;
*if you go into a shop you’ll be kept waiting for service, sometimes for quite a long time because the one salesperson is grappling with the phone and a growing line of customers. Meantime there’s a record number of “job seekers” on welfare who aren’t taken into account when we are told that unemployment is at record low levels. The government thinks them unemployable, and they aren’t even put on to unskilled work like fruit picking, meaning that apples fall to the ground and wine-makers have to scrabble to get their grapes picked in time;
*At hospitals around the country, most of which have relied in recent years on hundreds of immigrant nurses and doctors, the remaining staff are being run ragged because the borders are largely closed. People are queued waiting to be triaged, and in one or two high-profile cases, dying as a result;
*Tourism would also benefit from fewer border restrictions, relying as it always has on young back-packers at ski resorts, and even as life-guards at swimming centres.
And then we have the other signs of our fraying body politic:
*On any given day in term time, record numbers of kids, especially those with brown faces, aren’t in class, some of them at ages as low as seven, tagging along with a set of gang recruits, ram-raiding shops and using heavy objects against jewelry stores;
*Steadily declining standards of literacy and numeracy among 15-year-olds. Recent tests showed two-thirds can’t write properly while one-third failed the maths assessment. This is scarcely surprising given that the Minister isn’t concentrating on his major portfolio and tolerates a situation where what used to be compulsory education has, under his watch, become voluntary for too many children;
*Drive-by shootings are at an unparalleled level, and not all of them are caused by Australia’s 501 policy. Auckland’s gun crimes doubled in May this year;
*House prices have reached such a ridiculous level that without recourse to Bank Mum and Dad our young have almost no chance of buying a house;
*Inflation has reached a thirty-year high, eating into everyone’s budgets, with an especially serious effect on low to middle income families;
*Transport costs have rocketed for everyone, especially those living on the more affordable edges of metropolitan areas where a great many young families begin their lives, and half-fares on public transport and small reductions in fuel taxes have taken only some of the load off the cost of getting to and from work.
Try as he does to blame something or someone else (overseas trends, Covid, the war in Ukraine etc) Grant Robertson can’t escape blame for much of our inflation. When Covid came along, he responded positively to nearly every request for government money, thus contributing hugely to the excessive liquidity that went into circulation. Having let the genii out of the bottle, the government then scrambled to try to control the media so that the guilty might escape blame for the inflation ministers had created. The taxpayer-funded Public Interest Journalism Fund, no matter what editorial rooms might claim, has thrown a wet blanket over public debate. Te Tiriti rules public discourse, not the simple three-clause Treaty of Waitangi that was celebrated in 1990, its 150th year, but the bullswool version made up by a few academics, Maori radicals, Labour and the Greens. Those who want to question extraordinary Maori assertions and claims are banned from the pages of the New Zealand Herald. Instead, toadies like Simon Wilson, and cartoonists Emmerson and Body seem to have been instructed by editors to savage opposition figures lest the government be defeated and editorial noses are removed from the PIJF trough.
Much of the unravelling of New Zealand society could still be mended if Jacinda’s government returned the country to an open border once more. But immediately we run up against the weird ideologies that underpin this so-called Labour ministry. Maori have never supported immigration, believing that on any given day a tourist is likely to out-compete an under-educated local when it comes to a job. Since Willie Jackson, Nanaia Mahuta and Kelvin Davis have been allowed to wield extraordinary power in this cabinet, whatever Maori want, or don’t want, goes. Our under-educated Minister of Immigration fancies the notion that closed borders will push up the pay of Kiwis who are in short supply, but he can’t explain what his ruse will do to restrain 7.3% inflation. Indeed, it is already clear that higher wages for those in unskilled jobs are pushing up prices for many basic services. Nothing else damages the interests of core Labour voters as much as that thief better known as inflation.
If only this government understood the extent to which New Zealand has been a part of a globalized world this last forty years and aspects like Health, more than anything else, depend on an open border! If Andrew Little were to spend four or five days in, say, Auckland Public Hospital he would encounter Filipino, Nepalese, Vietnamese, Indian and even Iranian staff who add their skills to the all-too-few Kiwis who are trained at our medical and nursing schools. He might then be able to explain this to his colleagues, or to a few of them if they would listen…maybe?
We are experiencing the worst government of my lifetime, one that has caused more damage and divisiveness in our society, than there has been at any time since the Great Depression.
Michael Bassett was a Cabinet Minister in the 4th Labour Government 1984-1990